Great moments in state exchange success: Maryland fires its contractor

posted at 9:21 pm on February 24, 2014 by Mary Katharine Ham

“It’s going to be smoother in places like Maryland where governors are working to implement it rather than fight it. (Applause.)” — President Barack Obama, Sept. 26, 2013

Five months in, Maryland’s state exchange is still barely limping along. Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, who headed up the exchange build, has no apologies. The exchange director resigned after she went on a Cayman vacation while the site was imploding. The situation is bad enough that this essentially one-party state has devolved into a fight over whether they should abandon their $100 million dysfunctional site for the federal site, and Democrats running for governor are whacking each other with its failure.

Now, another contractor bites the dust:

Maryland has fired the contractor that built its expensive online health insurance marketplace, which has so many structural defects that officials say the state might have to abandon all or parts of the system.

The Maryland Health Benefit Exchange voted late Sunday to terminate its $193 million contract with Noridian Healthcare Solutions. Columbia-based Optum/QSSI, which the state hired in December to help repair the flawed exchange, will become the prime contractor, while Noridian will assist with the transition.

“We worked very hard with [Noridian] to find a path forward,” said Isabel FitzGerald, the Cabinet secretary in charge of information technology. “And the decision now is that we are just not making the progress that we had hoped.”

Maryland was one of 14 states that chose to build their own health-insurance marketplace to implement President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, which politicians and residents in the state strongly support. Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) boasted that the marketplace and the Web site Marylanders would use to access it would be among the best in the country.

But the site failed within minutes of its Oct. 1 launch, blocking residents who were trying to get health insurance. The system has limped along since then. Ultimately, state officials say, they may have to rely at least partially on the federal health-care Web site or on sites operated by other states.

As of Monday, Maryland had paid Noridian $67.9 million for its work and had unpaid invoices totaling $12.9 million, state health officials said.

Predictably, state officials are blaming the contractor and the contractor is blaming the state’s unrealistic desire for a quick turnaround and frequent changes:

McGraw said his company met its contractual obligations under “tremendous pressure and constant changes by the state,” which amounted to hundreds of adjustments and fixes.

In attending Maryland’s Health Exchange meetings over several years, I can confirm that they did keep adding capabilities to the technologists’ plate, sunnily predicting an exchange to beat all other state exchanges with seemingly very little knowledge of what was necessary to make the project happen. I cannot emphasize enough that Maryland was supposed to among the best prepared states in the country for this boondoggle. They were foiled by their own ambitions, their lack of understanding of the magnitude of this tech undertaking, a system without anyone accountable for its success, and the federal government’s withholding important information until after President Obama was reelected, which compounded all of the above problems by making the timeline even shorter than it already was.


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Maryland taxes rainwater.

Bmore on February 24, 2014 at 9:32 PM

Bmore on February 24, 2014 at 9:32 PM

So does Dallas.

cozmo on February 24, 2014 at 9:36 PM

A lot of my family decided to escape that hell-hole. PA,, most of them.

It’s a shame. The bay was a wonderful place to grow up.

It rocks my world seeing the land that holds my family graves utterly destroyed by progs. Wanna dig them up and re-bury them out west.

They’de understand.

wolly4321 on February 24, 2014 at 9:38 PM

cozmo on February 24, 2014 at 9:36 PM

Really. Which place do you suppose is a bigger shit hole?

Bmore on February 24, 2014 at 9:44 PM

Such an incredible waste of money this whole “Affordable” legislation has been. It would probably have been as fiscally responsible to just burn the money. :facepalm:

xNavigator on February 24, 2014 at 9:46 PM

Bmore on February 24, 2014 at 9:44 PM

Well, everything is supposed to be bigger in Texas.

But Maryland is stinkier for sure.

cozmo on February 24, 2014 at 9:50 PM

Can’t they just bypass the middlemen and go straight to the top of this crime syndicate and fire Obama?

VorDaj on February 24, 2014 at 9:51 PM

…what connections gave them the job?
…what did 193 million dollars get them?

KOOLAID2 on February 24, 2014 at 9:58 PM

Their healthcare exchange is worse than their drivers. That’s bad:)

bernzright777 on February 24, 2014 at 10:03 PM

cozmo on February 24, 2014 at 9:50 PM

Yeah, Maryland is a tiny state. Dallas is a big city. Maybe it wasn’t a fair comparison. I’ve never been to Dallas as an adult. Maryland I have. Such a geographically beautiful place. Too bad about it leftists government. I read somewhere a report that Marylands wealth is leaving. Sure to be replaced by more redundant government employees. Shame.

Bmore on February 24, 2014 at 10:25 PM

its

Bmore on February 24, 2014 at 10:26 PM

. I read somewhere a report that Marylands wealth is leaving. Sure to be replaced by more redundant government employees. Shame. Bmore on February 24, 2014 at 10:25 PM

Not the landed gentry. The old money. They are there to stay.

Lib politicians are wholly owned,.

wolly4321 on February 24, 2014 at 10:47 PM

Rich people out west have these big homes. Rich funishings. All new.

My grandmom cleaned homes for the landed gentry in MD.

I went with her as a kid.

OLD Money.

It was unreal. Colonial furniture. The real stuff. 200 year old portraits. The dogs drank out of silver bowls. Gardens. Topiary. Horses. Purebred Arabians.

They own Baltimore Co. And most of the rest of the State. They own the land. They have for 250 years.

wolly4321 on February 24, 2014 at 11:06 PM

Vacation in caymans? Caymans are home for the best tax evasion schemes, just saying. It is called vacation, but most likely she needed to be present to sign some money laundering documentation.

anikol on February 24, 2014 at 11:20 PM

Never has so much money been spent, or so many people inconvenienced – for the benefit of so few. So few, in fact, that Democrats have to pull large fictitious numbers out of their asses to justify THEIR legislation.

GarandFan on February 24, 2014 at 11:30 PM

How can so many different contractors fail at the same task? It’s not like we’re in 1990 and website building is still an enterprise in infancy. This is embarrassing. That it’s happening in my home state, however, is not at all surprising.

Democrats, two words you need to learn: “I’m sorry.”

BKeyser on February 24, 2014 at 11:32 PM

How can so many different contractors fail at the same task? It’s not like we’re in 1990 and website building is still an enterprise in infancy.
BKeyser on February 24, 2014 at 11:32 PM

She already told us:

In attending Maryland’s Health Exchange meetings over several years, I can confirm that they did keep adding capabilities to the technologists’ plate, sunnily predicting an exchange to beat all other state exchanges with seemingly very little knowledge of what was necessary to make the project happen. I cannot emphasize enough that Maryland was supposed to among the best prepared states in the country for this boondoggle. They were foiled by their own ambitions, their lack of understanding of the magnitude of this tech undertaking, a system without anyone accountable for its success, and the federal government’s withholding important information until after President Obama was reelected, which compounded all of the above problems by making the timeline even shorter than it already was.

Plus there was never, anywhere, any real requirements list, RFP, bidding for the contracts, or oversight of the contractors’ work.

AesopFan on February 25, 2014 at 2:45 AM

Maryland just reduced the number of expected enrollees by 100k.

After said reduction, suddenly the state was exceeding expectations.

And yes, they do tax rain water. And you need to be fingerprinted and licensed to qualify for the background check to buy a gun. But not to vote.

Maryland. DC’s butt hole.

Also Maryland: The FreeFee State

Gatsu on February 25, 2014 at 7:27 AM

I am absolutely blown away that the cost of building a functioning website for a state the size of Maryland is 193 MILLION DOLLARS!

I shouldn’t be since I was involved in budget battles while in the USN, but it’s still shocking.

I can’t get out of this state fast enough!

NavyMustang on February 25, 2014 at 8:02 AM

And yes, they do tax rain water. And you need to be fingerprinted and licensed to qualify for the background check to buy a gun. But not to vote.

My guns were grandfathered, but I just found out that if I want to use a firing range in Maryland, I will have to go through that BS to do that.

25 years of honorable service in the military, former cop, government worker with TS/SCI clearance.

Yup, I’m a threat.

NavyMustang on February 25, 2014 at 8:03 AM

My guns were grandfathered, but I just found out that if I want to use a firing range in Maryland, I will have to go through that BS to do that.

25 years of honorable service in the military, former cop, government worker with TS/SCI clearance.

Yup, I’m a threat.

NavyMustang on February 25, 2014 at 8:03 AM

Clearly. I mean that all just screams “threat” to me.

Oh. No. Wait. That’s the opposite of threat. Sorry.

Gatsu on February 25, 2014 at 8:59 AM

Guess what Massachusetts, Oregon and Maryland and Hawaii have in common. They haven’t signed up any individuals through their health care websites. And one more interesting fact is they all have Democrat Governors. Does being a Democrat equal total incompetence? Looks like there is a case for that assumption.

regmgr on February 25, 2014 at 9:30 AM

How can so many different contractors fail at the same task?

I don’t know much, just enough to know I don’t know. A real market is a complicated place, where millions of choices are made constantly, money shifting, information arriving, deals happening, tax bases changing, all updating, updating constantly hundreds of times a minutes, with shares traded by supercomputers in fractions of a second at infinitesimal margins, constantly, constantly….a very complicated place. So complicated, in fact, that you have to go to school to understand it.

Obamacare is an artificial market, being run by sociaopaths. They’ve essentially destroyed the complicated, beautiful thing, that was humming along with 80% of the population insured, and replaced it with Tinker-toys. Every day, the bureaucrats learn something new that probably every single MBA in the country knows as basic, turns around, and asks the contractor for an addition. The contractor doesn’t give a shit. It will never be sued for this.

Herald of Woe on February 25, 2014 at 10:07 AM

You know, you have to expect the occasional pothole on the Road to Utopia. Or, as one of our sages put it:

Ed –
You mean the websites aren’t working perfectly on day one two three four five six seven eight nine ten eleven twelve thirteen fourteen fifteen sixteen seventeen eighteen nineteen twenty twenty-one twenty-two twenty-three twenty-four twenty-five twenty-six twenty-seven twenty-eight twenty-nine thirty thirty-one thirty-two thirty-three thirty-four thirty-five thirty-six thirty-seven thirty-eight thirty-nine forty forty-one forty-two forty-three forty-four forty-five forty-six forty-seven forty-eight forty-nine fifty fifty-one fifty-two fifty-three fifty-four fifty-five fifty-six fifty-seven fifty-eight fifty-nine sixty sixty-one sixty-two sixty-three sixty-four sixty-five sixty-six sixty-seven sixty-eight sixty-nine seventy seventy-one seventy-two seventy-three seventy-four seventy-five seventy-six seventy-seven seventy-eight seventy-nine eighty eighty-one eighty-two eighty-three eighty-four eighty-five eighty-six eighty-seven eighty-eight eighty-nine ninety ninety-one ninety-two ninety-three ninety-four ninety-five ninety-six ninety-seven ninety-eight ninety-nine one hundred one hundred one one hundred two one hundred three one hundred four one hundred five one hundred six one hundred seven one hundred eight one hundred nine one hundred ten one hundred eleven one hundred twelve one hundred thirteen one hundred fourteen one hundred fifteen one hundred sixteen one hundred seventeen one hundred eighteen one hundred nineteen one hundred twenty one hundred twenty-one one hundred twenty-two one hundred twenty-three one hundred twenty-four one hundred twenty-five one hundred twenty-six one hundred twenty-seven one hundred twenty-eight one hundred twenty-nine one hundred thirty one hundred thirty-one one hundred thirty-two one hundred thirty-three one hundred thirty-four one hundred thirty-five one hundred thirty-six one hundred thirty-seven one hundred thirty-eight one hundred thirty-nine one hundred forty one hundred forty-one one hundred forty-two one hundred forty-three one hundred forty-four one hundred forty-five one hundred forty-six one hundred forty-seven one hundred forty-eight
verbaluce on October 1, 2013 at 10:18 AM

There Goes the Neighborhood on February 25, 2014 at 10:34 AM